Government plans to provide mobile connectivity in 55,669 villages by March 2019 in a phased manner. It will also commission a project to connect 8,621 villages in the north-eastern region by installing 321 mobile tower sites by September 2017, a note prepared by Department of Telecom (DoT) about the progress made during the last two years of the NDA government said. A comprehensive telecom development plan for the north-eastern region at an estimated cost of Rs 5,336.18 crore has already been approved. Regarding connectivity in areas affected by left wing extremism (LWE), a total of 1517 towers out of 2199 identified by Ministry of Home Affairs have started functioning till date, the DoT said. On connecting rural India through high-speed broadband, the department said it has completed laying of optic fibre in 48,199 gram panchayats as on April 25, 2016. For deeper digital penetration in rural areas, the government has taken up the BharatNet project in mission mode to connect all 2.50 lakh gram panchayats, which have over 600 million people. BharatNet will support e-governance services, e-commerce, tele-medicine, tele-education, financial services, among others. “This would open up new avenues for access service providers like mobile operators, cable TV operators, among others, to launch next generation services and spur creation of local employment opportunities,” the DoT said.